Master Your Message Blog

Why Your Opening Is Absolutely Critical

You get judged by your opening

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”

In the first few seconds, as you walk on stage, your audience is “sizing you up.” They’re figuring out whether they like you and are going to listen to you. They’re also making a decision as to whether you’re funny or not and whether you know what you’re talking about. There’s a great book called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell about that split second when people subconsciously judge you. We all do it.

The opening of any presentation is THE most important element. It can make or break you as a presenter.

So, it’s important to think about your first few seconds on stage. I recently critiqued a new professional speaker who started her talk by coming on stage all smiles and giving a big hug to the MC. Then she completely changed her demeanor to deliver a very sobering talk about planning for one’s death and the importance of having a will.


I was left wondering whether she actually believed what she was talking about or whether it was all just “an act.”

So, make sure you set the tone for your talk from the moment you appear.

Pick an opening that subtly tells something about you and sets the tone for the subject you’re about to address.

My favorite opening is “The Riveting Opening” – so much so that I wrote a blog on it.

One of the most effective ways of beginning is with a very short story or anecdote that relates to the subject. There are others. A simple humorous story, a joke along the same lines as your subject matter, an analogy or a simple observation. But if you’re not naturally funny, don’t try to be. You’ll do more harm than good. Be yourself.

Also make sure that you have your opening down “cold.” If there’s anything I memorize, it’s the opening. I do that so it’s flawless. The other big benefit is that once you get through the opening, your nerves come back. You actually start to have fun! So does the audience.

Setting the proper tone for your talk should actually start BEFORE you speak – with your introduction. But that’s another video.

Comments for this Post

  • sharon sayler May 22, 2013, 11:58 am

    Your comment “But if you’re not naturally funny, don’t try to be. You’ll do more harm than good. Be yourself.” It brought a chuckle and tear to my eye… I recently was at an event where I know they paid to be on that stage. The guy opened with a story, so unrelated to the topic and so personally embarrassing for him that it was all I could do not to leave the room. What a waste and I heard he was surprised no one rushed to buy…. Can I add to your with Be yourself – but remember you are there to be of service to the audience…. I still see in my mind’s eye the looks of shock and confusion in that room!

    • Peter Temple May 23, 2013, 10:33 am

      Hi Sharon,
      Thanks for the comment and the “addition.”
      What a great story!
      And I’ve seen professional speakers who spent the first five minutes talking about themselves!
      You’re so right – it’s all about the audience.


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